Freedom of Information Law Continues to be an Issue in New York

It has been a year since amendments to the State Freedom of Information Law required that government agencies in New York provide a specific date by which records shall be provided to the public. Under the amendment to the Public Officers Law, if records cannot be provided within twenty business days, the party requesting the records must be given a date by which the records shall be provided. But as noted in the popular media (http://www.star-gazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060322/OPINION01/603220340/1004) lack of responsiveness by government agencies continues to be an ongoing issue.

One solution that has passed the New York State Assembly and is pending in the Senate is to give some teeth to the penalty for failure to comply with the law by making it easier to recover attorney fees by those who successfully sue to obtain public information (http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/menugetf.cgi). Under the present law a court must find that the records sought were of interest to the general public. Under the proposed law fees shall be awarded if the court finds there was no reasonable basis for denying access to the records regardless of the nature of the records. Apparently the hope is that this will encourage government agencies to be more responsive and less arbitrary in delaying and denying access to public records.